HARRISBURG – The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee held a joint public hearing today in Harrisburg to hear testimony on the potential impacts of Pennsylvania’s participation in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), according to committee chairs Gene Yaw (R-23) and Kim Ward (R-39), respectively.
As chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Yaw said the hearing served as an important starting point to hear from various groups who presented widely differing viewpoints on the environmental and economic implications of entering into the compact of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, which the Wolf Administration is considering despite resounding opposition.
TCI would require motor fuel distributers to purchase carbon dioxide emissions allowances at auction with the cost passed onto consumers at the gasoline/diesel pump, and is similar to the decade old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for electricity.
Opponents raised concerns that it would take more money out of the pockets of working families, hurt job creators, and have minimal impacts on emissions, while supporters said it would help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and promote clean transportation alternatives.
“This is a complicated and far-reaching issue, so today was an important step in the educational process,” Yaw said. “I’m pleased that we were able to gain such insightful information from many different groups as we begin down the path of determining whether the Commonwealth should consider joining the compact.”
Senate Transportation Committee Chair Ward raised concerns that entering into the TCI would negatively impact drivers, disproportionally affect rural residents and require a new “gas tax” of up to 17 cents per gallon. That would be an enormous burden on Pennsylvania motorists who already pay the second highest gas tax in the nation. Unlike the current gas tax structure constitutionally-protected for roads, bridges and safety, the proceeds from TCI would be dedicated towards electric buses, electric vehicle charging stations, bike lanes, etc.
“Today, the Wolf Administration touted the TCI would not increase the gas tax. But, if the TCI raises the overall price of gas at the pump, then the outcome is the same for consumers.” said Sen. Ward. “We do not have door-to-door mass transit programs in many areas of Pennsylvania, so when the cost of gas increases, drivers pay more. I respectfully ask the governor not to enter into the multi-state TCI.”
A number of testifiers stressed that states need to work together to reduce emissions, but others questioned whether the benefits of joining TCI would really be realized. Testimony received also alluded to how low and zero emission vehicle technology offers great promise in terms of improving vehicle efficiency and air quality while providing consumers with expanded transportation choices.
Yaw said he is committed to hearing all viewpoints and data to ensure that Pennsylvania makes the best decision for its residents.
“We need to start talking about this and it was obvious that there are many different opinions on what we can or should be doing,” Yaw said. “We need to look at the big picture.”
A recording of the hearing as well as all testimonies received are available on both Committee websites.
Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee:
Senate Transportation Committee:
Nick Troutman, Sen. Yaw’s Office
Nolan Ritchie, Sen. K. Ward’s Office